Nine-year-old Conrad “Rad” Sebastian and his eleven-year-old sister, Leah, call downtown Winston-Salem home. They are the children of STITCH architect Adam Sebastian and his wife, Anna, who decided to set up house on Trade Street five years ago in a building of Adam’s design.
“We used to be surrounded by woods,” says Leah of their former home near Salem Glen in Clemmons (Modern Ambassador, January 2013). “Now our best friends live right across the street.”
Leah’s dad camped out in those woods during the planning phase of the Clemmons home’s passive solar design. And while residing there, Adam kept his fingers on the pulse of the city for more than a decade as a member of the Downtown Winston-Salem Partnership’s planning committee. By the time he became Chairman of the Board (2014), the architect knew he wanted his children to experience everything the city had to offer. He also knew where he would build his family’s new downtown home — in a growing section of the city north of Seventh Street known as Industry Hill.
Adam co-developed the three-story building he now lives atop with friends Hank Perkins and Drew Gerstmyer — each of whom owns a floor below him. Built as an addition to the existing stair tower that connects Famous Toastery and the city’s only rooftop bar — Bar Piña — the Sebastians’ modest penthouse has some of the sweetest views of the city.
When they’re not playing with their besties, Leah and Rad operate within a general radius of downtown, and can walk or bike around the neighborhood to their favorite places accompanied by one, or both, of their parents. They invariably see people they know, like Sgt. Kevin Bowers of the downtown bike police.
“I like the strawberry smoothies at Moji’s,” Leah says. “I also love the convenience of walking to everything.”
In search of something less pedestrian, Rad is always up for a cross-city bike ride for an ice cream cone from the Lill Dipper.
There are many other places downtown these days where children like Rad and Leah are bound to meet kids their own age: the Art Park, the candy barrels at Mast General Store, Rock Box Bouldering climbing gym, and the coal pit, an urban concrete park outside Incendiary Brewing Company and Cugino Forno Pizzeria where dozens of children can be found playing games in plain sight of their parents.
At the end of the day, like most kids, Leah and Rad ease back into their personal bubbles, aka their bedrooms. And they’ve got some pretty sweet views.
Looking north they can see Wake Forest University’s Wait Chapel soaring above a distant tree line while Pilot Mountain and Hanging Rock stand as sentinels, ever vigilant, on the horizon.
Rad’s outpost is dominated by thousands of LEGO pieces and a few futuristic nods to the universe of Star Wars.
“He keeps [the LEGOs] so he can get all his ideas out,” Anna says.
Leah’s room, on the other hand, reflects her interior design interests, which inspire an ever-changing room décor that serves as her creative laboratory.
As you might expect, living on the top floor of a building also comes with a built-in amenity: a modest rooftop oasis that’s the family’s favorite fair weather spot. It’s an all-purpose, open-air space where family and friends grill out, watch wall-projected movies, toast s’mores over the fire pit, camp under the stars, and occasionally follow satellites as they pass in the night sky.
“We’ve even had an inflatable pool up here, too,” Adam says.
Flying an Industry Hill banner from the top of his building and looking south toward downtown, Adam confesses he’d always thought he’d experience city life in Chicago. Hopefully, Winston-Salem will continue to satisfy any and all urban impulses.
“Life is too short,” he says. “Why not let your kids see how it is in the city?”